By: Will Harrelson, Director of Product Integration
If you were an entry-level associate attorney and your firm’s management committee offered you a promotion to managing partner starting next week, would you feel prepared to begin making strategic decisions for the entire organization? Of course not – you’d need to study the financials, review HR policies, and make sure you are aware of any pending issues the management committee is considering. For the very same reasons, when your law firm decides to move to the cloud, you need to take a few crucial but completely manageable steps to prepare for your migration.
The process of moving your firm’s legacy servers, antiquated network-based software, and both old, archival, as well as current practice data requires thoughtful preparation.
Prepare an inventory of your firm’s current infrastructure
It is crucial at the start for you to create an inventory of your current servers, software applications, storage locations, network components, data sets, and users so that your migration plan addresses every piece of business-critical data. For example, even the most basic migration to the cloud will require you to identify platforms to replace each legacy server-based application. You should start a chart listing each piece of software that your firm uses (this may require some investigation because you may not personally use each piece of software the firm has implemented). A more specific requirement of taking inventory is that you need to determine the extent to which your firm’s data can be migrated. In order to make that happen, you will want to identify each data field that you use in a given application. This may entail you listing each field in a client’s contact card in your practice management or billing platform (such as the fields which capture and document a client’s office address, birth date, billing rate, etc.). You can capture this data in any way you choose, but spreadsheets help organize data fields and specifics such as serial or model numbers for computer equipment.
Start early and work hard to obtain buy-in by listening, encouraging user testing, and asking for help
Any migration project can easily turn into something resembling a movie set with actors, crew, stagehands, and multiple producers and directors running around calling shots. One way to reduce the potential for chaos, passionate opposition, and miscommunication among employees is to begin your migration process by involving all employees in initial announcements of the upcoming changes. By doing so, you create the opportunity to ask your fellow attorneys and staff questions and look for ways to improve your firm’s overall processes while upgrading your software with new cloud-based technology. Also, it is helpful to demonstrate the new products with webinars, lunch and learns, or links to promotional or support videos for each platform so that your firm’s employees can see the improvements in the user experience. Demoing the new platforms also helps prevent the tendency to rebel against what is foreign – often, it flips the reluctant team member to find the new software interesting!
Finally, those not intimately involved in the decision-making process in a migration process typically feel included when the firm’s management asks for help with identifying necessary data, tasks, or hardware or software features that they should consider. For example, the decision makers may not be involved with the process of scanning incoming mail and so it is logical to ask those performing the task what shortcomings or necessary features exist in the current hardware or software. The overall goal with this step is mutually beneficial: you will obtain buy-in by including your firm’s attorneys and staff while also uncovering helpful critiques of current processes or overlooked data that must be retained.
Look for a quick, easy first victory
You will want to demonstrate that your migration process is moving in the right direction and is successful, no matter how that may be defined. Because the process could take multiple months (especially if you are migrating all aspects of your server-based software to cloud alternatives), you should look for small victories along the way to celebrate with your team. These can take varying forms of complexity: for example, completing an inventory list of all the software programs used by each attorney and entering the firm’s credit card information for your new cloud-based document storage system can and should be equally celebrated!
One way to easily share these victories and demonstrate progress is to create a pattern of communicating major updates to the firm’s attorneys and staff in an email newsletter or update. Another is to involve the key players in whatever task and project management tools the firm uses during the process, such as Trello, Basecamp, or Smartsheet. Using these tools gives you the chance to list a collection of tasks into a card or group that you can close or archive when finished, creating a visual reminder of the progress that is taking place.
The process of migrating your firm’s server-based software and legacy hardware will likely take a number of months and will require multiple meetings, project plans, and cost estimations.You may find it necessary to bring in an outside consultant or practice management advisor to help bridge the gap between the old and the new and to ensure that the transition is seamless. Either way, the steps outlined above will help make the process easier and will improve the feeling of camaraderie among your firm’s partners and employees.